The Beautiful Brain explores the latest findings from the ever-growing field of neuroscience through monthly long-form essays, reviews, galleries, short-form blog posts and more, with particular attention to the dialogue between the arts and sciences.
Three artists. Three approaches to visualizing our inner landscapes. This month we present interviews with Constance Jacobson, Audrey Goldstein, and Heidi Whitman, three contemporary artists whose work is decidedly brain-themed, ranging from sculpture, to painting, to performance art and beyond.
Be sure to check out our exclusive online gallery of selected works by each of these artists as you listen to the interviews about their artistic process, their specific interests in the brain, and the potential– as well as the limits– of the dialogue between the arts and the sciences.
Three interviews and a roundup of the latest neuroscience news all in this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast. Total runtime: 55:40
This month we are delighted to present an interview with Mark Changizi, author of The Vision Revolution, an active blogger, and an assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
His research aims to grasp the ultimate foundations underlying why we think, feel and see as we do. Focusing on “why” questions, he has made important discoveries on why we see in color, why we have forward-facing eyes, why letters are shaped as they are, and why the brain is organized as it is.
His research has been published in numerous journals and has been covered in many mainstream outlets, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, USA Today, and Time Magazine, among others. The full interview with Mark Changizi and a roundup of the latest news from the brain sciences, all in this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast. Total runtime: 1:01:38
This month we are proud to present an interview with Joseph LeDoux, the acclaimed neuroscientist and bestselling author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self. LeDoux’s research into emotion in the brain has led to groundbreaking findings in the realms of fear and memory. His primary area of concern is the amygdala, the center of fear processing in the brain, and most recently his work in animal models has uncovered just how flexible and dynamic memory can be… kind of like Joe himself, who also is the frontman for the rock band The Amygdaloids, whose brain-themed songs will be released in an album featuring Rosanne Cash later this year. Science, rock music, and the news, all on this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast. Total runtime: 33:42
In the second edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast we examine the relationship between painting and mental illness and injury through interviews with Dr. Anjan Chatterjee of the University of Pennsylvania and internationally celebrated artist Katherine Sherwood, who suffered a massive stroke in 1997 but continued to paint following the stroke, switching to her left hand. We’re also excited to present an online gallery here at The Beautiful Brain featuring some of Katherine Sherwood’s paintings, which incorporate scientific imagery of her own brain, and some of her more recent works inspired by the drawings of the great Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Dr. Chatterjee is a leading researcher on the neuropsychology of art, examining the effects of mental illness and injury on art and using the art itself to form hypotheses about what happens in the brain during the creative process. Those interviews, the news, and a report on a recent synesthesia symposium in New York City all on this edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast, hosted by Noah Hutton. Total runtime: 34’30
The University of Copenhagen, pictured above, hosted the first annual Copenhagen Neuraesthetics Conference.
This month, in our inaugural edition of The Beautiful Brain Podcast, we explore the young and somewhat chaotic world of neuroaesthetics, which seeks to answer questions about creativity, the mind of the artist, and the mind of the observer. Noah reports on his trip to the Copenhagen Neuroaesthetics Conference and interviews John Onians, a founder and pioneer of neuroarthistory, which uses the empirical findings of neuroscience to help explain historical trends and cultural differences in visual art across centuries and around the world. Total runtime: 32’00”
What’s that thing about monkeys typing Shakespeare? Give an abstract device an infinite amount of time to produce a endless string of random linguistic symbols and there is a technically a non-zero probability that such a “monkey” will eventually hit upon any existing piece of literature, the theorem goes. In other words, pure chance can be highly creative. In the 1960s, movements like the Oulipo imposed certain constraints on their work, following certain patterns (the most famous example may be the experimental novel La Disparition by Georges Perec, written without the letter e). With these algorithms, the creative act becomes a calculable operation. The result may or may not be inherently meaningful. In the case of the monkey, the result would be as meaningful as the original, but would not arrive for the duration of our universe. Some people are even programming computerto produce books. Phillip Parker, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD Business School, has patented a program that can receive a small amount of information mimic the thought process of an expert. The process takes thirteen minutes, and Parker claims to be able to program romance novels and even rudimentary poetry (the program has produced over 2oo,000 books). Recently I’ve thought about this phenomenon after encountering Google Voice transcripts for my phone messages, which produce hilarious and even brilliant errors:
“Bye bye. Thank you very much catch her to work Hi. This past sorry it is, actually some fire Yeah, okay. Alright friends and I’ll pass. Something written about it’s all right with you, cool trying to heydude fresh. We know with the Ohh, Ohh I’m calling about the truck I guess.”
How would the meaning be changed if I told you what the caller was actually saying? In the digital age, Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” seems especially prescient. What will happen to creativity? I like this quote from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined, out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.” Maybe he meant a computer, processing.